FRIDAY JANUARY 23 CONTENTS
(4) WaPo on Markelov
FRIDAY JANUARY 23 CONTENTS
(4) WaPo on Markelov
Russia — Bandit Nation
“I came today as I am deeply sorry and disgusted for Russia: how can you just shoot people down in broad daylight in the centre of Moscow?”
— Alexandra Fomina, a prominent Russian artist, visiting the scene of the Markelov assassination the day after the killing
“We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense, and for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you.”
— U.S. President Barack H. Obama, Inaugural Address
Once again, as they have been doing for centuries, like a pack of wild dogs the people of Russia have mauled and destroyed one of their greatest patriots. From Dostoevsky through Solzhenitsyn to Politkovskaya and now most recently Stanislav Markelov, Russians seem to relish spilling the blood of those who love the nation and elevating to highest authority those who would obliterate it. What nation can expect to survive such a course of conduct?
There are of course no words we can call upon which can adequately condemn the cowardice and malignant evil displayed on Monday afternoon by the vile reptiles who scurry through the Moscow Kremlin when their henchman sneaked up behind Markelov, one of Russia’s greatest living patriots, and put a bullet in the back of his head. The venal reptiles did not even have the courage to face him, or to use a normal pistol. Instead, they relied upon a silencer in hopes of slinking off into the shadows unnoticed, and they did not hesitate to kill a valiant young woman — Anastasia Barburova — a university student, another great Russian patriot, who dared to challenge their action.
These Stalinesque murders defy written condemnation not only because they are so inhuman, but also because they are only the latest in such a horrifyingly long litany of barbaric killings. It is more than ten years now since November 1998 when, less than four months after Vladimir Putin took the reins of power at the KGB (by then renamed FSB), Russia’s most ferocious defender of human rights, perhaps who ever lived, namely Galina Starovoitova, was shot down at her apartment building in St. Petersburg. Fast forward to October 2006, and Anna Politkovskaya, the direct successor to Statovoitova, meets exactly the same fate, with dozens of other lesser-known fatalities in between. And now Markelov, the lawyer counterpart to Politkovskaya, who in fact served as her legal counsel, and Barburova, one of Politkovskaya’s disciples. It seems the people of Russia, through their official representatives, mean to rend up the tree of liberty root and branch and fling in onto their pagan bonfire.
We condemn their suicidal ignorance, cowardice and malice. Russia appears to be a nation of bandits governed by bandits with no intention or even desire for anything remotely like civilization. We are appalled. The people of Russia stand teetering on the precipice of a chasm of absolute barbarism from which, upon falling in, there is no escape. It hard at this moment to decide whether the world would be better off reaching out desperately to get them away from the brink or better off pushing them in.
The Russian Stock Market, back in Freefall
On Monday this week the Russian RTS dollar-denominated equities index took another massive hit, shedding over 6% of its value and dropping precariously close to the 500-point psychological barrier. Gazprom shares were down over 6% like the broader market, oil major LukOil lost even more (over 8%) and Sberbank, the nation’s bedrock financial institution, was down over a stunning 9% in just one day of trading. The RTS-2 index, which excludes the major equities that the Kremlin purchases with foreign currency money to inflate their value, though down less than 3%, did crash through the 500-point barrier to close at a stunning 496. The main RTS index was only slightly above that, closing at just over 531.
The ruble followed suit, plunging to a new historic low of 32.9 to the dollar, down 1.3% against the dollar/euro mix. The Russian currency has lost nearly one-third of the value it had before the August financial crisis began, and had been devalued a stunning 18 separate times since mid-November of last year when its slide was allowed to begin.
The ramifications for Russia’s reserve funds are dire indeed.
If we told you that one of these two men is Gazprom chief executive Alexei Miller, and the other is the head of Ukraine’s gas company Naftogaz, Oleh Dubyna, and told you they were watching officials exchange documents at the Gazprom headquarters in Moscow on Tuesday after the “gas war” between their two countries ended, you’d know instantly which man represented the winning country, woudn’t you? That would of course be the smiling man on the left — namely Mr. Dubyna. Photo from the Moscow Times. Another Putin scheme goes down in flames. Nice scowl there, Alexei.
Everything that is said in this editorial from the Washington Post has already been said (many times) on this blog. And that’s why we republish it. Because what got us accused of “extremism” three years ago is now conventional wisdom. In fact, we now must wonder whether we’ve become too moderate in our assessment of Vladimir Putin’s Russia.
ANOTHER RUSSIAN fighting for human rights and the rule of law has been murdered in Vladimir Putin’s Moscow. Stanislav Markelov, a lawyer who defended Chechens brutalized by Russian troops and journalists who wrote about the abuses, was shot in the head yesterday by a masked man carrying a silencer-equipped pistol. An opposition journalist who tried to intervene, Anastasia Baburova, was also fatally shot in the head. This occurred in broad daylight, on a busy street in central Moscow less than half a mile from the Kremlin. It was another demonstration that assassinations are a dominating feature of political life under Mr. Putin’s regime.
Once upon a time, Russian imperialism and aggression were motivated by the frenzied desire for warm-water ports. Now, according to Vladimir Socor of the Jamestown Foundation, they are motivated by the desire to control gas pipelines. From the Eurasia Daily Monitor:
Russia and some circles in Germany are reactivating the idea of a consortium to control Ukraine’s gas transit system. Moscow hopes to profit from the crisis atmosphere it has itself created since January 1 by stopping gas supplies to Europe via Ukraine. Blaming Ukraine in oft-inflammatory language for the stoppage, Russia is seeking to persuade Germany and the rest of Europe that Ukraine is unqualified to handle the transit of Russian gas supplies.
Moscow’s thesis, if accepted, would lead to two possible corollaries. One would be international backing for circumventing Ukraine with Gazprom’s pipeline projects, such as Nord Stream and South Stream, which Gazprom lacks the means to build. The other would be international acceptance of transferring control over Ukraine’s transit system from an “unreliable” Ukrainian government to a “reliable” Gazprom, under the mantle of an international consortium.
Pavel Baev, writing on the Jamestown Foundation’s Eurasia Daily Monitor:
Two weeks after the traditional turn of the valve in the first minute of the new year, the disagreement between Russia and Ukraine over the trade and transit of natural gas is still not resolved, and it is not only the duration that makes this “gas war” different from the previous quarrels. At the outset of the active phase of conflict, the inescapable feeling of déjà vu prevailed in commentaries and risk assessments by the concerned parties. It took a week for the EU to wake up to the need to take urgent measures. The first reaction was to issue a statement that the interruption of deliveries was “completely unacceptable,” which had no effect whatsoever. The idea about international monitoring of the gas flow proposed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel on January 7 took another week to materialize, despite the technical simplicity of such control; but the resumption of Russian exports to Europe has not facilitated a deal on deliveries to Ukraine. Without this key part of the problem being resolved, the situation remains unstable (RIA-Novosti, http://www.newsru.com, Kommersant, December 11).
No sooner had we published an editorial (below) decrying the injustice of releasing the brutal murderer Col. Yuri Budanov from prison than the lawyer for Budanov’s victim, 18-year-old Heda Kungayeva, was shot and killed in Moscow after leaving a news conference where he, too, expressed outrage at the release and announced his intention to challenge the release in court. The lawyer, Stanislav Markelov, was a renowned defender of human rights in Russia, director of the Rule of Law Institute and the attorney equivalent of Anna Politkovskaya (indeed, she was one of his clients), and now he has met the same fate as she did, the same fate Russia reserves for all her true patriots.
Anastasia Baburova, a Kremlin-critical journalist with the Novaya Gazeta newspaper which previously published Politkovskaya and at whose knee Barburova had studied, was at Markelov’s side and was also shot, but survived — only to perish hours later in the emergency room. She was NG’s correspondent on the Budanov story and had written extensively about it. Markelov was shot from behind at 2 pm Moscow time by a silencer-equipped pistol at close range. It is being reported that Baburova was shot when she tried to pursue and seize the assassin after the first shots were fired.
Nobody even casually familiar with this blog can be surprised by this news; it is only the latest in a long string of political murders have have shadowed Vladimir Putin from his first months in the Kremlin.
To the leaders of the Western democracies we can only say: “How many deaths will it take til you know that too many Russians have died?”